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open the schools: liberal democrat edition

The consensus against school openings is starting to crack. First, Biden’s selection for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, is openly for restarting school. From a report by the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Mr. Cardona has expressed support for opening classrooms to ensure that students who can least afford it don’t fall further behind thanks to the inadequacies of remote learning. Mr. Cardona and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont have “made it a priority to keep schools open for in-person learning amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” the Hartford Courant wrote this month, “They have said there is little evidence of COVID-19 transmission within schools and that there are numerous social, emotional and educational benefits to in-person classes as opposed to online learning.

Yup. And it doesn’t stop there, California Governor Gavin Newsom, often the advocate of some the most stringent measures, is now trying to open schools. From SF Gate:

Under Newsom’s plan, school districts will receive additional funding if they agree to a firm timetable for reopening schools beginning in mid-February. The proposal will be submitted to the state legislature as an adjustment of the state budget and offers additional funding for schools, up to $450 to $750 per student, if they commit to reopening.

The plan is specifically geared toward getting students from kindergarten to the sixth grade back in the classroom, with a special emphasis placed on reopening schools in underserved areas disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The funds are expected to help schools adopt safety protocols such as testing systems, universal masking and increased sanitation.

What is the rationale for this? It’s actually simple. First, the risk of COVID mortality is very, very low for young children. How low? According to the Centers for Disease Control, for school age kids (5-14), the total COVID mortality in the US is 51. You read that right. 51. It’s horrible that anyone should die at such a young age but it helps to compare with other activities. For example, there are about 25 student homicides each year in American schools and about 5 more are killed per year in transportation. In other words, the risk of a school student dying from COVID (51) is slightly higher than the risk of death from simply going to school (30).

Furthermore, the COVID risk is much smaller than other risks we tolerate every day. For example, the COVID fatality rate for kids is very, very small compared to the estimated yearly auto-fatality rate for kids. For example, the Department of Transportation has data indicating a fatality rate of about 1.5/100,00 for kids (0-14) dying from automobiles. In contrast, the 0-14 COVID fatality rate is 102/ (19,576,683+28,446,096+12,548,067)= .0000016 or 1.6 per million.* In other words, the fatality rate for young people from COVID is an entire order of magnitude less than from auto accidents – and we don’t shut down cars. Furthermore, as I discussed recently, evidence does not suggest that schools are transmitting COVID to community at a higher rate than normal.

COVID is 100% a serious issue but it is a very small risk for young people and there’s little evidence so far that schools make the overall situation any worse. Rather than keeping kids out of school, send them back with sensible distancing and hygiene precautions. Instead, focus our efforts on helping the elderly, such as prioritizing them for vaccines, age grading commercial and social institutions, and improving conditions in nursing homes.

* I took the 0-14 COVID total deaths from here and divided by the 2019 0-14 age population reported here.

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Written by fabiorojas

December 30, 2020 at 8:33 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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